We’ve spent a lot of time in this lesson walking through different design methodologies and emphasizing the role of the user in these processes. Where does this information about users come from?
User research is the systematic study of target users of a product or interface to understand their behaviors, needs, and motivations. This is a broad field of its own, and in some organizations, a separate user researcher primarily focuses on this work. In addition, every UX or UI designer is likely conducting some user research. User research can happen at every stage of the design process to inform decisions.
Some researchers specialize in quantitative research methods that can be measured numerically, such as surveys, analytics, and A/B testing. Others specialize in qualitative research methods that examine why users behave the way they do in depth, such as interviews, focus groups, and ethnography.
Anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “What people say, what people do, and what people say they do are entirely different things.” User researchers need to develop strong interpretive and creative skills to get to the core of why people behave the way they do. It’s important to combine multiple research methods for a full understanding of user behavior:
- Attitudinal methods focus on what users say, through user interviews, surveys, and diary studies.
- Behavioral methods observe user behavior, through ethnographic studies, A/B testing, and user testing.
While user research, such as interviews and surveys, is done as part of the discovery process to get to know users better, evaluation methods like user testing and A/B testing assess how a design or prototype performs once it’s complete.
A skilled user researcher is able to tell stories and frame their research in digestible ways that are useful and compelling for others within the organization. Tools like personas, user journey maps, and storyboards can be used to advocate for the user and circulate key points from user research across an organization.
Think about answers to the following questions to check your understanding of user research methods.
What is the term for research methods like surveys and A/B testing that can be measured numerically?
What kind of user research methods focus on observing user behavior?
What are three tools used by user researchers to communicate research findings across an organization?